OTISFIELD — Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School student Kira Powell has pretty much sung her way through school, starting back in the fifth grade.

The Otisfield senior joined her elementary school’s choir the first year she was eligible. She has been a perennial chorister ever since, and was selected for OHCHS’ chamber choir after her freshman year audition.

OHCHS senior choral singer Kira Powell of Otisfield will represent Oxford Hills in the American Choral Directors Association Eastern Division Honors Treble Choir at the ACDA’s annual conference in February. Submitted photo

Anyone guessing Powell comes from a musical home would be correct. Her mother was a singer as a student and had professional training before deciding that a career in opera was not for her.

Her father has played in bands for years while continuing to collect new instruments to master, including the accordion, banjo and pump organ. And her older sister Mikayla also participated in choir through her own school career.

Powell is not just a chip off her mother’s block — she takes after her father, too. She played cello and trumpet until she realized that prioritizing her studies meant letting go of some extracurricular pursuits. She also enjoys playing acoustic guitar.

For Powell, choir is as much a competitive outlet as sports are for other students. The nervous energy of an audition, and then nailing it, is the same whether one’s instrument is their voice or cleats and a glove. She gets the same lift performing on the stage as student athletes get from running, dribbling or swinging on the court or the playing field.

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“I like the community of it, it gives me a place where I belong,” she says. “Traveling to different performances is like my game day.”

Choir has helped her make connections with students from other schools, renewing them during annual concerts and festivals year after year. Now, as a senior, she has found she enjoys mentoring younger students as they learn the ropes of singing in the chamber choir.

So when OHCHS Choir Director Dennis Boyd presented his singers with the challenge to audition for the eastern regional conference choir of the American Choral Directors Association, Powell raised her hand to do it and began practicing.

“Funny story,” Powell said. “We originally thought we would be singing an Italian piece we were already preparing for with the all-state auditions. But the day we had to get the audition videos in, Mr. Boyd told us it was not the Italian version. It was a different song that I had to learn in, like, two hours, and then perform on video and send in. It was pretty hectic.”

OHCHS Chamber Choir singer Kira Powell of Otisfield. after a concert. To sing their best one must properly breathe, and exhaling after a performance done well is a good reason to smile Submitted photo

Pressure? Certainly. Powell seized on the new music, practiced it in the little time she had available, and sang her best. She would be judged along with other students from every eastern state between Maine, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C.

Another audition, nailed. She was selected to be part of the ACDA’s 2024 Regional Conference, which will be held in Providence, Rhode Island in February.

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“For me, the hardest part of singing has always been building my confidence” before auditioning, Powell said. “This year I’ve done a lot better with it, but I still have pretty severe anxiety so auditions are hard for me to do. And in believing that I can get in. But I’ve figured out that if you’re confident and think that you can (do it) and have a chance, then you perform a lot better. You have less crushing pressure on yourself.”

Powell plans to major in social work when she gets to college. She has not made any enrollment decisions yet, but it is important that the school she attends has a strong music program so she can continue working at her craft.

“Music gives me something I’m good at and a place to be,” she said. “I have thought about singing professionally, but don’t really want to be a music teacher and it would be pretty hard to make it another way.”

Going into social work will provide a career where she gets the reward of making a difference in other people’s lives. Volunteering at the Portland Recovery Community Center with her aunt helped guide Powell’s career goals towards community service.

In the meantime, the holiday season is the busiest for anyone involved with the choral music world. State conference performances wrapped earlier in November, as did caroling at the 2023 DECA Craft Fair.

The chamber choir performed at the Christmas in Harrison festival, and also at the annual Christmas for Teens Benefit Concert.

Next, Powell will set her sights on preparing for the ACDA conference, which will take place between Feb. 28 and March 2.

“I am really excited about Rhode Island,” Powell said. “I wasn’t fully expecting to get in. I think it will be a really cool experience for me.”

 


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